Our Hearts' Desire

A painting of Santa Claus 
Stan Prokopenko, 2017


Dear Reader,

At the close of 2020, if Santa Claus is coming to town, what would his bag be stuffed with? We would love to know; to be close to the desires of our readers’ hearts would guide us in our publishing decisions: would Santa’s sleigh be fully loaded with Covid-19 vaccines?

We suspect not.

As a publishing house, we have come to realise, and respect, the diversity of choices that reflects the democratic society we are working towards. Even when the house is burning, there may be deeper emotional or psychological compulsions that hijack our attentions. Santa’s sleigh would be a mixed bag of treats, some of which would not clear the customs.

Not having a workshop with elves who can produce infinite wonders, we would have to decide, like you, like all of us, guided by our better senses in a sea of possible choices. Under a sky overcast with uncertainty, do we then produce books to satisfy the desire for certainty? Would this certainty be anything more than a painkilling palliative?

The year 2020 and Covid-19 have been variously pronounced as The Challenge of Our Lifetime. These are expressions driven too, by the desire for certainty: putting a label on a problem gives us the comfort of knowing; defining the magnitude of a crisis assures us that there is a limit to its size. Even so, these are not the types of expressions that Ethos is looking to publish.

In the face of life, with its infinite capacity to frustrate our expectations, we cannot publish to comfort ourselves with certainties. Rather, we will publish to prepare ourselves to be patient and compassionate. Over a dinner with two friends of Ethos, the three of us were discussing if we were doing what we love:

A triptych frame with cards of the word "happy", a heart, and "do what you love"
A nephew’s present to his uncle


One of them pointed out that “passion” stems from the Greek and Latin words for “suffering”: when you do what you love, you have to bear the suffering that attends your love. The other added that “passion” is cognate with “patience” and “compassion”. The first requires us to bear the suffering of waiting, the second, to wait with patience alongside others like ourselves.

If there is a message that we wish to send to you for 2020 and into 2021, it would be the shared wisdom of patience and compassion. This is a wisdom that we have inherited, and one that will outlive our current generation.

May your family and you be safe and well, and we look forward to publishing works guided by the light of this wisdom.

Kah Gay

(From December 26, 2020)